The good thing about being "in the depths of despair," as L.M. Montgomery's Anne Shirley would say, is that it gives one the chance to look for a way out. I haven't necessarily been in the depths of despair, but I have been the short side of completely happy. I feel like for a while I've been approaching a transition point, and I believe I've arrived, thanks in part to a book I've mentioned a few times, Operation Beautiful by Caitlyn Boyle.
The mission of Operation Beautiful "is to post anonymous notes in public places for other women to find. The point is that WE ALL ARE BEAUTIFUL. You are enough… just the way you are." The book Operation Beautiful is a collection of photos of post-it notes placed all over the world with affirming messages of encouragement and strength, and of stories from women and men whose lives have been affected by writing or finding these notes.
One of the goals which Operation Beautiful sets is to "change the way you see, not the way you look." The book is filled with stories of women who stopped counting calories and stopped allowing their self worth to be dictated by the scale. These women have learned to eat mindfully and intuitively, and to treat their bodies as athletic and beautiful creations capable of anything. The two, I believe, go hand in hand. The book is teaching me and giving me permission to learn to eat mindfully, to challenge my body, and to develop an actual love for myself. (That said, I don't feel strong enough to give up recording what I eat yet. But no more being manic about it.)
When I first started reading Operation Beautiful I had to pause after every story or two to wipe tears from my eyes; something way down deep inside was being nourished. I could practically feel the seed breaking open. I think the loving acceptance of the book is what got to me. Fr. Greg Boyle, in his book Tattoos on the Heart, writes about loving other people, "no matter what." From Operation Beautiful, I'm learning to love myself, no matter what. And that love is what allowed me to feel the sadness and frustration I felt yesterday from a distance. Those feelings didn't consume me, I didn't beat myself up, and I didn't lose hope.
I'm grateful for these experiences that teach me that I am worthy of love, no matter what. For as many "I love you"s as I exchange with family and friends, it's hard to believe I'm good enough to be loved by anyone at all. And yet that's the message I find in the books I mentioned above and, as I wrote several weeks ago, in watching Bob & Jillian hug overweight people.
If, like me, you need help battling lifelong negative self-talk or pop culture's debilitating messages of perfection and beauty, then I hope you'll find your way to Operation Beautiful. The book is available at libraries and stores, and there's a website (www.operationbeautiful.com). From one of its first pages:
"Spread the truth
Spread the hope
Spread the love
You are so beautiful,
just the way you are."